Saturday, September 6, 2008

SUNDAY AM COMMENT: I am working on a summary of ideas looking ahead to the remaining portion of the hurricane season, and whether or not Hanna was a sign of things to come for the East Coast, or just an isolated event. Check back later today or this evening for the full update.

Hanna Radar 9-6-08 3PM

6PM UPDATE: With the center now crossing the Bay and heavy rain bands subsiding across the area, I think you're looking at the grand finale of Hanna for the Chesapeake region, and conditions have begun improving at least in the Baltimore area. As you can see from the radar, Pennsylvania is getting c-c-c-clobbered with monsoonal like downpours. A recent report from Cecil County indicates remnants of the decaying eyewall have moved just south of the area, with a rapid wind shift to the north. In Maryland, expect the strong gusty (but dry!) winds to continue well into the evening as the storm moves to our northeast. Any water that piled up during high tide may be slow to drain out at first, but once the northwest winds work in conjunction with the waning tide, the water will recede quickly.

12PM UPDATE: Analyzing the track, and noticing that NHC changed the projected path, I am thinking Hanna will travel along a line from East of Richmond, across St. Mary's County, to Cambridge, MD to right over Dover, DE. That's starkly different crossing southern DelMarVa don't you think?

8AM UPDATE: The latest radar makes me wonder if this is going to track up and along the WEST side of the Chesapeake Bay, and not through lower Delmarva as currently projected by the NHC. That would have huge implications for the forecast, especially considering that most waterfront property owners along the Bay right now believe this storm is not a major surge threat. Follow the DC-Baltimore NWS discussions to see if they account for it. Remember now, NWS and NHC project tidal surges of 1-3 feet on the western shore. If Hanna tracks along the Bay or west of it, I am saying now those surges COULD be double... 3-6 feet and may flood homes that were expecting little or no water. Until we turn our attention to Major Hurricane Ike, I will keep the main page short so you can post your observations, thoughts and reactions below, and include your location!

Hanna Radar 9-6-08 Accuweather

Friday, September 5, 2008


Hanna Satellite 9-5-08 IR

From the day-after-day weak satellite presentation and lack of noticeable circulation, to this bowling ball of convection that is about to make landfall in South Carolina... Hanna has certainty demonstrated tenacity. Now we wait to see if the forecasted path holds true, and if she indeed does travel mostly EAST of the Bay and NOT UP the Bay. Not landfalling in Wilmington, North Carolina as many of us thought it would, indicates to me that "frictional effects" are taking place. This also means the downstream track might shift westward, which spells serious trouble for the Mid-Atlantic if that starts to happen.

The concept is simple: Winds blowing onshore from the right front quadrant are usually stronger, whereas winds blowing offshore in the lower left quadrant are weaker. This disparity of wind in opposite sides of the storm can actually drive the entire system closer to the coast, due to the frictional effect of interaction with the land. Charley in 2004 was a great example of this, which is why he made that sudden right turn and hammered Port Charlotte when many (including me at the time) thought it was headed for Tampa.

So I retire for the evening hoping that you've completed your preparations, and that we will all act in a safe and appropriate manner during the storm. Please post your observations and wind speeds if you know or can accurately tell (say by using the Beaufort Scale!). Tomorrow I may post the chat feature just during the main storm period from mid morning to sunset. I'm not staying up for the 11PM advisory, but would not be surprised to hear she went to hurricane status just as landfall occured.

Hanna satellite image 9-5-08

Formatting note: I realize this is a long post, it's a combo of 2 days. Comments are found at the bottom. Please note your location for more accurate response to your questions.

ABC2 News Hanna Headline 9-5-08

STORM IMPACTS AND PREPARATION. The Red Cross has good details on preparation in the "Spotlight" Box for Tropical-Storm related disasters. The NWS has a list of key actions to take in their official statements. A couple notes about preparation: Make sure tonight you have fully charged all electronic devices, cell phones, little music players. Make sure there is a working phone that does not require AC power. I would also turn your fridge temp down a few notches if you're prone to losing power. Do you have some working light sources? (candles don't count!) Have you checked on elderly or shut-in neighbors? Have you removed all the items from the yard, alley, deck etc that could blow around..trash cans, toys, chairs, umbrellas, tarps? Did or will you park the car away from trees and branches that could fall and blow a hole in your insurance policy? All right, enough said for now on that. Below is a summary of impacts in order of how severe an effect on the Baltimore-DC metro region:

1. RAIN 3 to 6 inches or more in heavier bands that feed off the bay or ocean, all coming inside a 12 hour period. When one of those bands moves over you, it will look like a monsoon and go on for an hour or more. Does your basement flood easily? Are you near a stream that overflows it's banks with every thunderstorm? If so, take precautions today and tonight. Though the ground is very dry, heavy downpours can quickly flood small streams and urban areas. Turn around, don't drown. Stay inside, stay alive. Local storm conditions can change very fast, especially during one of those embedded rain bands.

2. WIND Sustained east to northeast winds of at least 40 mph from late morning until sundown. That's 8 hours of wind-swept rain beating against your house. The kids are going to love it, for the first hour. Then it'll get old real fast. Greater sustained speeds to near 50 mph with gusts near hurricane force in the southern Chesapeake Bay. The entire region will see gusts near 60 mph, but winds will be backing north and then northwest toward evening as the storm passes east of the Bay.

3. DEBRIS The biggest risk to life and property is not going to be downed trees everywhere, but a massive amount of falling limbs and branches which can kill or seriously injure anyone caught underneath. Do I need to post sad but true stories of teenagers who went out to walk the dog during a Tropical Storm to get the point across? Heavy limbs will take out power lines, which end up laying on the ground, covered with other tree debris. Please do not go outside.

4. WATER Unlike Isabel, which sent a constant fetch of southeast wind to pile all the water up the Bay, this will feature a quick hit of wind that may start SE and then back and remain east to northeast. Water will pile up on west side of the bay at first, and then by sundown, as winds shift to the north, it will all be blown out. Inland waterways on the west side, especially in areas that are near to the open Bay will see surges of up to 4 feet temporarily with 2-3 foot waves on top of that.


NWS Advisory Map 9-5-08

Looking only at today's weather across the Northeast, you'd never know the area is about to get slammed with it's first significant tropical system since Isabel in 2003. In my opinion, ABC2 News is the one network in the Baltimore area doing the best job of explaining potential impacts, most notably Justin Berk. His website has valuable information you should review if concerned about this storm. Others might think I'm hyping the storm because their TV news is downplaying it. Well, I remember how poorly the Mid-Atlantic fared in preparation for Isabel 5 years ago, due in large part to the lack of detailed information from the news media and even the Weather Channel. After the storm passed, I was told by students in my school at Dundalk High in Southeastern Baltimore County that they went to bed the night of September 18 thinking a Tropical Storm Warning sounded like "a really bad thunderstorm." I asked why, and they said.. "well that's what the news told us. Just a lot of rain and wind." Some of them awoke at 2AM with water pouring in their first floor windows and coming up through the floorboards. That was from a predicted 2-4 foot storm surge. This website did not exist then, and that storm was the catalyst that led to creating this forecasting venue. I have vowed since that fateful storm that next time, I would get the word out LOUD AND CLEAR.

I hope we've done that, and as family time and children needs permit over the weekend, I will continue hammering away on the importance of NOT UNDERESTIMATING MOTHER NATURE, especially when the HUMAN EXPERTS (National Hurricane Center) have given us fair warning. The latest visible satellite image proves Hanna is getting ready to make her move, as convection is wrapping around the center and winds are gusting at or above 75 mph.


Maryland District closures 2

RATIONALE: Isabel was a stronger storm at landfall, but her track was northwest away from Maryland and through Virginia. The center of circulation never got close to any Maryland county. Virginia on the other hand was pummeled. This time, both states may get equal treatment because Hanna will track through the Bay area counties, and actually closer to Washington than Baltimore. Some districts may be forced to close Monday because road and ground crews will have 24 HOURS or less to clear downed trees, debris and restore power to critical facilities. Isabel caused school closings on Thursday September 16, 2003 when she was making landfall in coastal North Carolina...hundreds of miles away. It wasn't until overnight Thursday into Friday when the bulk of the storm arrived. Then, school and road crews had 2 full days to cleanup. Despite heroic efforts, some districts including Baltimore County remained closed the Monday following the storm. So think about your preparations now... if you lost power or were flooded in Isabel, what would you have done differently? Determine those steps and then implement them today. A lot of people were taken by surprise as to the intensity and widespread damage causes by Isabel. This could actually be worse in terms of wind damage and rainfall. Are you ready?

MARYLAND SCHOOL DISTRICT IMPACT: Text desscription of the Maryland map posted above if you are unable to view it. HIGH RISK (entire system closed) includes all MD counties south of a line from Anne Arundel east to Queen Anne's. MEDIUM RISK (modified closure specifically by individual school or area affected) From Baltimore City and County east to Kent County and North to the PA/MD/DE lines.

FOR COMMENTERS: Please remember to post your location. We would also appreciate having anyone report back on the evening news roundup... or the morning roundup. What are our TV forecasters saying, and do you think they are adequately preparing the public or explaining what precautions should be taken? I hope we do a better job of getting the word out this time.

FOR THOSE UNFAMILIAR WITH TROPICAL STORMS: review the Baltimore-Washington NWS official statements regarding preparing your family and property. No need to flip out, just be prepared and take the storm seriously. Tell your children and students not to go and wander about in the storm, the risk of falling trees, limbs and power lines is the greatest and most immediate threat to people unaware of the dangers associated with a landfalling tropical storm.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


NHC Hanna 5


NWS Advisory Map 9-4-08

The media continues to do the same disservice to you as they did in Hurricane Isabel. I have not seen an adequate explanation yet on what a Tropical Storm Watch/Warning means, other than the official NWS statements. Television meteorologists in the Washington/Baltimore area need to make clear that this is not "just a tropical storm." The public needs to understand that sustained winds of 40 to 50 mph are not something to be brushed off. The last time the Baltimore Metro area was in a tropical storm advisory, many schools were closed 3 days or more. Some people were without power for over a week. Are you ready for that again?

Now that the NHC track and intensity forecast is matching what I've been saying all week, on Saturday the entire Chesapeake Bay region including Baltimore and Washington will experience sustained winds up to tropical storm force (40 mph) for at least six hours, with occasional storm force gusts (near 60 mph). Tornado watches and warnings will be widespread. Plan now to make Saturday a day to remain indoors, and do not let your children wander outside. This will be a fast moving and deceivingly dangerous storm not to be underestimated. Follow this link to view the NHC's current projected path for Hanna this weekend.

WIND IMPACTS: By midnight Friday into Saturday, tropical storm force winds will extend out from the center at 300 miles or more. That means by sunrise winds reaching 40mph will reach Washington, Baltimore, and the entire DelMarVa peninsula. Southeastern Pennsylvania and central/southern New Jersey will see those winds by Saturday mid-morning. Surface winds combined with the storm's accelerating forward speed of 25 mph or greater could produce gale to storm force wind gusts (39 to 63 mph) along the I-95 corridor from Richmond to Boston on Saturday. Numerous tornadoes will occur within embedded rain bands that spiral in from the ocean, and total storm rainfall may exceed 4" but just over a 6 hour period. Divorce yourself right now from the thought that, "Oh, she's going to miss us to the east."

BASICS ON IMPACTS AND PREPARATION.. check back for additions later today.
1. A hurricane watch has been hoisted for portions of the Carolinas. As I suspected, Tropical Storm watches have been extended this evening to include the entire Chesapeake Bay. NWS Baltimore is calling for a 2-4 foot storm surge along the western shore.
2. Sustained winds to 40 mph and occasional gusts above 60 mph for at least 4 hours will down many trees and create hundreds of thousands of power outages throughout the coastal Mid-Atlantic. That includes the Washington and Baltimore metro areas along and east of U.S. Route 1.
3. If you live in an area prone to power outages or small stream flooding, start your preparations now. Though the ground is dry and will soak much of the 3-6" of rain, heavy downpours will create flash flooding along easily flooded areas. Overall, the farther south or east in MD or VA you are, the more direct effects you will experience, and the greater wind/rain damage is possible.
4. Where will your car be parked this weekend? Not under lots of trees, branches or neighborhood power lines I hope. Move it into an open area if possible. Your insurance company will thank you.
5. Teachers, administrators, coaches: If this storm resembles Isabel's impacts, then it becomes more likely that disruptions to the school calendar occur for the early part of next week. For example, in Isabel, Hereford High School in northern Baltimore County was out of commission longer than the county system itself due to an overwhelming number of downed trees. That was well over 100 miles from the actual center of the storm. If Hanna intensifies suddenly prior to landfall, the "weakening trend" will be masked by her fast forward motion, hence a greater potential for wind damage, even though landfall wind speeds will be weaker than Isabel. If you are inside the "cone of uncertainty" on this map, I would plan on taking extra work home this weekend. Interscholastic sports on Saturday is a washout, and expect many community events to be canceled or rescheduled.

LET THERE BE NO DECEPTION ABOUT THE PHRASE "MINIMAL HURRICANE." Ask the residents of South Florida how they felt about minimal Hurricane Katrina when she made her first landfall there before becoming the Louisiana Lasher. I personally have been in two "minimal hurricanes" over the past 25 years, regarding wind speeds at my location. Gloria in September 1985 followed a similar path as is projected for Hanna though farther offshore and produced sustained 70 mph northwest winds in the northern Bay for hours. Gloria was not minimal in any way, making landfall in Long Island with winds of 110 mph. In September 1999, residents from North Carolina to New Jersey will never forget Hurricane Floyd. I can recall like it was yesterday the mad scramble some Pennsylvania school districts went through when students were sent home at the height of the storm. All this from a minimal hurricane that tracked across the DelMarVa, a good 180 miles from Philly. In suburban Philly, we had sustained 50mph winds with gusts to 70 mph for at least six hours and stinging rain blown sideways all day long. In North Carolina is was one of the most destructive storms on record there in terms of catastrophic flooding. In less than 2 weeks, we will be marking the 5th anniversary of the Potomac Prowler.. Hurricane/Tropical Storm Isabel. Memories of that horrible experience alone should make any coastal resident take this storm seriously. Isabel will be the closest comparision to Hanna in terms of the inland wind field, but thankfully not in terms of the massive flooding along the Chesapeake Bay.

Wednesday evening's map from (uses same info as NHC)

StormPulse Hanna 1

NHC Projected path as of Wednesday evening

NHC Hanna 3

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

- Professor Hinkle, the fussy magician from Frosty the Snowman

Atlantic Basin 9-1-08

TUESDAY AM UPDATE: With all school districts now back in session, or just about to resume, I realize that many of you have limited time to wade through extensive posts, and just want the basics on the next storm. We will be returning to the format employed during busy winter storm season, which is as follows:

1. SUMMARY: The next 10 to 12 days may prove to be the most active period we've seen in the Atlantic basin for quite some time. By Friday there could easily be 3 moderate hurricanes on the docket all generally heading toward the Eastern Seaboard: Hanna to strike the Carolinas on Saturday (if she survives the 'shear onslaught' going on 2 days now), Ike could thread the Florida straits needle and enter the Gulf by next weekend, followed by soon-to-be Josephine which could follow a traditional Cape Verde track and approach the East Coast by the middle of next week. Gustav's remnants will continue bringing heavy rains along the Mississippi Valley and into the southern Ohio Valley.

2. ANALYSIS: Over the next several days, maps and discussion of the upper air flow will be posted in this section. The feedblitz email service will not automatically resend this post, so please check back in for an update. Let's start with the Atlantic 24 hour 500mb forecast.

Atlantic 500mb 9-3-08

Very briefly, notice the main 3 upper systems currently hampering Hanna's ability to organize: (dm is decameters.. how thickness of the atmosphere is measured at different levels)

(a) Counterclockwise air flow moving south from the 564 dm Low off the Mid-Atlantic; (b) Clockwise flow also moving south around the 590 dm Ohio Valley high pressure ridge; (c) weakening but still present outflow from Gustav. The ridge is going to continue building east all day, and Gustav's outflow is not slackening all that fast. If Hanna does not overcome these influences in the next 12-24 hours, then I suspect many forecasters will have to throw their predictions out and start over.

3. FORECAST: Once the analysis is posted and the short-to-long range projections complete, this section is moved to the top of the page. With so many storms to track, a time saver all of us will be that adjustments can be made to the overall forecast without cluttering your inbox with continual mini-posts and little updates.

Monday, September 1, 2008

then there's HANNA SAVANNA

Gustav landfall radar

Although Gustav continues to warrant full attention of the media and weather outlets, those of you in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic are understandably concerned about the next tropical threat. I have even seen the cable network meteorologists say on air, “everyone who’s calling or emailing is asking not about Gustav but Hanna…” It is almost as if the weather producers had to hastily ramp up their programming because the public is become ravenous about the next big storm. But you don’t have to wait for CNN, Fox or MSNBC to get it together. You have your very own personal team of eyes on the sky right here. As busy as the tropics can get, I’m sure that if I miss something brewing out there, one of you will catch it and together we keep a close watch on it all.

Gustav came ashore just west of where I expected, on the southwest side of Houma, LA not just to the east as I forecasted. The intensity, though very dangerous, was not the home crushing 130 mph or greater I was fearing. The biggest story still unfolding with this storm is the water.. how much, how long and where. I submit that catastrophic flooding (while I don’t wish it to be right!) is likely to happen all through the riverside Louisiana, because a combination of downstream surge waters meeting upstream rainfall will make for a horrific one-way flood in the next 72 hours.

StormPulse Hanna 1

HANNA SAVANNAH: THE HISTORICAL LANDFALL? (There I said it, wonder if I'm the first one to make the reference).The very presence of this storm concurrently with Gustav is going to push the media to it's limits of natural disaster coverage. You, the viewer are probably going to think there is no other news in the country, as networks will be flipping back and forth between the Gustav flooding and speculating on whether or not Hanna will devastate the giant live oak trees in Savannah. That would be a terrible thing of course, but I believe climatology may spare the beautiful southern belle city just yet, because a turn toward the north is in this storm's future. Eastern North Carolina, the Virginia tidewater, and even southern Maryland/DelMarVa may be involved in this eventual recurve, and they won't have a lot of time to prepare for it. The good news is that unless Hanna moves very quickly at landfall and turns north/northeast, most coastal school districts in Maryland and Virginia will likely be able to squeeze out a full day on Friday, except for the districts that border the southern Chesapeake Bay area. A more detailed look on the track and impacts Tuesday.

Savanna oak trees
That mental picture you've always had of the Spanish moss gracing Savanna's live oaks.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday 8-31 Evening Update

Gustav Growing

(Storm clouds build over Havana, Cuba as Gustav approached from the south)

GUSTAV: 10 PM Sunday Analysis. It's a forgone conclusion that landfall as a Category 3 is now just a matter of time. It appears from latest satellite and radar imagery that a slightly discernable northward jog is occuring, which is very troubling. I also notice the Central Dense Overcast seems to be wrapping around a reforming eye. This indicates strengthening and unless the storm slows overnight, we could wake up to an intensifying 3 in the 125-130 mph range about to make landfall. Remember that each mile Gustav nudges east of the official track makes the damage to New Orleans, Lake Ponchartrain and surrounding areas that much worse. A surge of 10-14 feet traveling up the Mississippi River will overwhelm levee areas that were not affected in the same way as in Katrina. Water is again going to surge into the lake, and probably already has. It is at least reassuring to see the highways leading out of the city empty this afternoon, unlike last time. With a slowing of forward speed forecast near and after landfall, the flooding and rainfall impact of this may be worse than Katrina, and over a larger area. I submit that those who claim a westward track is better for New Orleans than Katrina's eastward jog are following wishcasting or don't understand the true nature of water movement under a long duration fetch of wind. This will be catastrophic any way you slice it. Below is my probably the last image of Gustav I will before of 10:30 PM 8-31-08.

Gustav in the Gulf 3

HANNA: A SURPRISE FOR STUDENTS? Until Monday, the projected path is an easy bet..west toward the Bahamas, then it gets complicated. The high pressure ridge that will build into the Northeast this week is going to influence her direction in the medium range. This in combination with Gustav's outflow may even weaken the storm somewhat. Once Gustav moves into Texas and the ridge in the Northeast moves offshore by Friday, divergent flow created by the departing High may provide Hanna with an "out." Tropical cyclones, just like air, water and school students, like to follow the path of least resistance. What looks more likely now is a recurvature east of Florida, with a landfall in the Carolinas. If Hanna is traveling north or northeast by then, the southern Chesapeake Bay, tidewater Virginia and the DelMarVa peninsula are put into play for secondary landfall by the weekend. Also note by that time, Hanna will be entering the westerlies, and thus forward speed will increase significantly. I've seen before a number of times where a fast moving system on such a track led to Tropical Storm Warnings for the entire Chesapeake Bay. While it may seem premature to say this, that raises the specter of disruption to the school schedule this coming Friday for at least many schools in Eastern North Carolina and even southeast Virginia. A stronger storm at landfall that moves more quickly will impact schools from Washington DC north and east into New Jersey. If history is any guide, many Mid-Atlantic schools closed for similar track storms (though not similar intensity) such as Gloria in 1985, Floyd in 1999, and the new historical indicator storm for Maryland-- Isabel in 2003.

Hanna Computer Tracks 1

IKE: THIS ONE YOU WON'T LIKE. Currently pegged as "Invest AL97" and located now west of the Cape Verde Islands, this next long track storm has climatology on it's side, along with favorable easterlies and thousands of miles of warm Atlantic waters. I'll be among the first to say this storm has potential to affect a wide area, so I'm sure many weatherfolk from the Gulf Coast to Florida to the Mid-Atlantic are already watching this storm's every move. One thing for sure, if it continues on a westward track, we will have a new round of major headlines in another 8-10 days after we get done with Hanna.

Invest 97L Track 2

For details on all these systems, visit this high quality tracking site: or view the National Hurricane Center's main page.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Less We Forget 1

Three years ago, the worst case scenario became a reality. The predictions came true, the projections were justified and the suffering of a city and the people it left behind became inhuman. For years, some said that someday, the luck would run out in the Crescent City. Others claimed we were safe behind our technology and devices. The levees will hold, the pumps will work. Leaders made it look like we were ready when really, it wasn't even close. And now today, it looks like all hands are finally on deck to salvage the good work that's happened in these three long years. Friday, August 29, 2008 saw the final burial of 80 victims from "the storm" whom were never claimed, except together by God and Nature's wrath on that fateful day. Today, those 80 souls among a thousand or more look upon us and whisper ever so quietly in the late night breeze wafting across the wetlands... "Lest We Forget." Waiting to see if perhaps this time, we have learned the lesson, so that their lives and unhappy deaths were not in vain.

Lest We Forget 2

If you have loved ones or know of anyone in the storm danger zones, take the time now to locate them, and see to it they are going to survive this with dignity and determination. Let the headlines read when this is over that no baby died from exposure by being stuck in a 14 hour traffic jam. Let's not have someone's grandmother left to out to die on the sidewalk because no one came to her aid before the storm. Let's make sure those without transportation are helped to the pickup stations. This time, let's get it right, not because it will look better for the cameras, because it is human thing.. the American thing to do.

Lest We Forget 3

FRI PM NOTES: You are no doubt aware that Contraflow is a go for all of the New Orleans Metro area starting early Sunday morning, and a mandatory evacuation for everyone south of Interstate 10. If it were my family, I would be leaving SATURDAY MORNING, because you know this scene above will be repeated across many highways. I hope none of you reading this will be stuck in that, because you're on the ball and have a plan in motion. Regarding the storm, I strongly suspect we will see explosive development in the next 24 hours, bringing it rapidly to Category 3. Wilma in October 2005 was in a similar location of the northwest Caribbean and intensified from tropical storm to Category 5 in just over 1 day, so it is possible again. Later in the weekend I will discuss the implications of the slowing forward motion projected for Monday to Wednesday, as I believe this will be the factor to cause as much OR MORE flooding in New Orleans than Katrina. Worse yet, if Gustva reaches Category 5 in the central gulf, and comes ashore as a 3 or above, we may look back on the whole situation and realize that Katrina was a rehearsal.


If you live along the I-10 corridor between Pensacola, Florida and Beaumont, Texas, please scroll to bottom of this post for a special list of recommendations I have regarding hurricane preparations for your family. This storm has the potential to be as bad or worse than Katrina, especially for cities such as Lake Charles, Lafayette, Baton Rouge. Towns along the Route 90 corridor could experience a direct hit, from Houma to Morgan City to New Iberia. Please take the necessary precautions now and review the Red Cross Planning Guide as well as my suggestions below.


NHC Gustav 6

FRI AM PROGRAMMING NOTE. Now that my 5 year old will be at kindergarten full time each day, I plan to complete and post a daily update either 9:30-10:30 AM or 1:00 and 2:00 PM during major storm periods. This is to clarify posting times for those of you keep checking back for updates, and are disappointed to find none. However, graphics and previous text or links will be tweaked as conditions change. Although I am on a sabbatical from school this year, there is much to do each day watching and teaching nearly-three-year old in addition to keeping the home clutter free of toys and completing coursework for my certificate renewal. I tell you this not because I am self-absorbed, it is so everyone is aware of the factors that will affect the frequency and extent of storm updates. Heck it might even help keep posts shorter!

SNEAK PEEK AT AFTERNOON UPDATE IDEAS: I am conducting an analysis of the factors that will influence Gustav's wind speed, the expected slowdown Monday into Wednesday, and how that could also be affect Hanna's trajectory. I will discuss Hanna's projected path beyond next Tuesday based on upper air factors, and her sustained wind speeds during that time.

EAST COAST RESIDENTS: I strongly suggest filling up your tank early in the weekend, as gas prices will eventually be affected by this storm, since nearly 90% of U.S. Gulf oil production is expected to be shut in by Sunday. Example: In Clearbranch, MS gas at a Kroger store went from 3.19 to 3.51 in less than 24 hours. You know that price action is going to work north.

New Orleans Nightmare

THU PM UPDATE: Three years ago today I was beside myself in bewilderment as to why it took until the morning of August 28 to issue evacuation orders for the City of New Orleans. Finally in the mid-morning hours that Sunday, Mayor Nagin made the announcement. Unfortunately it was beyond too late, and the delay was ultimately a death sentence for many. In 2008 there is hope that the lesson has been learned, for it seems FEMA and Governor Jindal are making it clear they will stay ahead of this storm and a state of emergency was issued early Thursday for Louisiana. It appears that federal and local officials now fully understand that a major evacuation requires at least 60 hours..which is well before even a Hurricane Watch is normally issued (at 36 hours).

NHC Gustav 4

The projected path of Gustav is very different from that of Katrina's and if this comes to pass, puts New Orleans and the southern Louisiana coast at greater risk for long lasting damage. Why? First, the significant loss of wetlands since the storm have reduced this natural buffer even further (a rate of 3 football fields per day). Second, a slow moving strong hurricane approaching from the southeast or south is the worst possible track, for it allows the storm to continuously funnel Gulf water in across Lake Borgne as well as the Breton and Chandeleur sounds into Lake Ponchartrain. Well before any landfall storm surge, this wall of water will overwhelm whatever levee systems are there, repaired or not, just by sheer force of volume. If Gustav slows down by day 5 or 6 as NHC is indicating, this will make the flooding problem just as or more catastrophic as Katrina. The only way to view this storm in a good light is that at least this time, there are less people to evacuate. The image below was taken from a special report on the week before Katrina, and featured as part of my reporting in August 2005.

No Margin Of Error

For those new to the site since our last major hurricane event, please know there are a few procedures I follow with regard to safety of readers in affected areas. If people reading this site happen to be located in an area of forecasted danger, I normally post recommendations that I would take were it my family facing the situation. However, the responsibility for taking appropriate action lies with the individual, and any harm that might come to someone while following my recommendations is a result of nature driving the environmental conditions. This of course has never happened to me in nearly 5 years of forecasting online, however I make it clear that if someone chooses to act on my ideas, it was a choice of their making, and not something I forced upon them. None of this "But Mr. Foot said I should..."


IF YOU LIVE ANYWHERE ALONG THE INTERSTATE 10 CORRIDOR BETWEEN PENSACOLA, FL AND BEAUMONT, TX, I offer these ten "Foot Would Follow" Recommendations. This is only a temporary partial list of actions I personally would take if my family were facing this storm. More details will be added Friday and Saturday, for I know many of you will be preparing to head out by then.

1. GET REAL GONE: Making arrangements with family at least 100 miles inland (for peace of mind regarding food, electricity, supplies, availability of cash from your bank, cell phone coverage, etc.). If no family nearby, you better get on the phone and reserve a hotel room or two immediately. Remember the gridlocked traffic? Have 2 evacuation routes mapped out.

2. LEARN FROM THE PAST: Reviewing what happened in recent hurricanes.. what went right and wrong about preparation? What would you do different this time. If you've never been through one, talk to someone rational and realistic in the neighborhood about what they are doing. I've read on forums that Gulf coast residents felt they should have left a day earlier in Rita/Katrina.

3. AM I COVERED: Check homeowner’s insurance, what does the policy say about wind versus water damage? How does it define flooding? Locate all the important family/home documents, take 30 minutes right now and put them in a binder, and put that in a water tight bag. Throw in a couple pencils, sharpies and some notepads. Review the links posted here on An Emergency Plan for Your Family... the Red Cross and FEMA also have good information.

4. STOP THE SALE: Don't be attempting to close on a home right now as insurer’s will not provide a policy within 30 days of an area being declared under a Hurricane Watch. Betcha didn't know that one.

5. BATTEN DOWN: Remove the boats today if feasible and hauling them very far inland. Boaters know how long this takes so it is not a quick and easy job. Leaving your boat at the dock allows it to become a missile into someone else's property or on to a public road hampering relief efforts.

6. DIVIDE AND CONQUER: One of you head to Home Depot today, the other go to the grocery store, right now this exact moment. Non perishables, comfort items, bottled water, canned goods and an opener, soap, insect repellent, first aid kit, batteries batteries batteries. Try an Autoparts store first before the HD. Before you go, Google the phrase: "100 items that disappear in an emergency." I've read that in Lafayette, LA many stores have already run out of supplies, and a similar situation in places even in Jackson, MS.

7. STORM SURGE: If your home is at risk for water or wind damage during landfall… and it’s a Category 3 or above, there’s not much that can be done to protect it. Boarding up windows won't help if the roof is ripped off and the walls collapse inward. Don’t believe me? Look at pictures of Pensacola before and after Ivan in September 2004. What's more important..getting your family to safety or fruitlessly protecting a structure that can be rebuilt?

8. TANK UP OR ELSE: Filling up the car right now this exact moment on the way to Home Depot and before moving the boats. Try to fill up a few of those red lawnmower cans too.

9. WHO'S ON THE TEAM: Making sure everyone in the family is on board and taking the storm seriously. Check on neighbors and elderly or those less mobile. What is the plan to get them out? Who’s in charge of them? Where will they be going? What's the phone number there? Better check on that crazy guy in the neighborhood who says he rode out the Biblical Flood, so he's not leaving this time.

10. TAKE THE INITIATIVE: DON'T WAIT FOR LOCAL OFFICIALS TO CALL AN EVACUATION. If you are of sound mind and body, are a responsible adult with or without a mortgage, with or without children and/or a spouse, and have generally developed a good sense of right and wrong… then by all means.. beat the crowd and evac early to avoid the miles of traffic line that YOU KNOW are coming. Don’t wait for contraflow. Don’t wait to be stuck on a bus that’s stalled in traffic with no air conditioning. It would have taken 72 hours to evacuate pre-Katrina New Orleans, yet the call was not publicly issued until Sunday morning less than 24 hours before landfall. That was way beyond too late.

CONCLUSION: I know some of my reader friends will be saying, "There goes Armaggedon Weather Foot again." I wouls say back to them... "Hey, you have to be right ALL THE TIME.. in a storm like this, I only have to be right ONCE." This time I hope I'm wrong. I’m not advocating that you jump in the car today and split. I’m saying that areas along and south of I-10 are at highest risk for damage and service disruption from this storm. If you want to have a reasonable existence in the post storm period during recovery, make the preparations now.

Let's compare this situation to what would happen if Gustav were heading for the Chesapeake Bay/Baltimore-DC, (as Hannah might do next week!) and I was going to experience 100 mph winds at my house in Dundalk, MD. I would be leaving and fairly soon, probably by Friday. I’d head directly for State College, PA, not up the 95 corridor with my other 9 million metro friends. Sound ridiculous to go 4 hours inland? Not when you consider I have 2 small children, and want to temporarily relocate to an area that is not directly affected, so I can still get groceries and supplies because they haven’t been snapped up already by people living in a “semi-storm” zone that just went a few miles more west to the next store over.

Much remains to discuss, including what Hannah may bring late next week to the Southeast and or Mid Atlantic. Please continue to be patient as the site undergoes revisions. I hear your suggestions to widen the fields, and I am trying to launch a 3 column format, but don't want to inadvertently delete all the features in the sidebar. I hope the biege/green motif is acceptable for now until I find something better.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Gustav in the Gulf 2

WED 8-27 SYNOPSIS: (Supporting links to be added later)
1. Gustav threatens to shut down at least 80% of US Gulf oil and gas production for 5 or more days, depending on the extent of damage and it's eventual path. Energy companies already evacuating personnel from offshore platforms, which are indicated by the white tower symbols on above map. Oil, fuel gas and natural trading are up sharply today in anticipation of supply disruptions before and well after the storm.

2. Galveston, Houston and New Orleans (and their surrounding communities) launching pre-storm preparations, realizing that the hurricane strength could reach Category 3 by early Saturday. Over the weekend, Gustav will traverse a long expansive of the Gulf that has surface temps of nearly 30 C (86 F). This "high ocean heat potential" which will fuel explosive growth, possibly bringing the storm to near Category 5 strength on Sunday.

NHC Gustav 2


This post marks the beginning of "high season" on my summer forecasting calendar, for the next 3 weeks is considered the climatological peak period of tropical cyclone frequency in the Atlantic basin. Right on schedule, a new hurricane is moving across the Caribbean. In an eerily similar script to Katrina, Rita, Dean and Ivan, early indications are Gustav will easily reach major hurricane status prior to a landfall along the Gulf Coast. If you consider the NHC current projected path (central Gulf by Sunday) and intensity forecast (a strong Category 3 by then) This storm has the makings of a very significant event, as some bloggers I've read have noted even the name "Gustav" seems to sound like it means business. Since the weather is serious business for many of you, improvements to this site continue so that information and posts are real-time or more accessible.

Gustav Tracks 2

Although this site normally focuses on weather risks for the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, Gustav poses a unique threat to the entire country much the way Katrina and Rita did. The reason centers on likely impacts to the U.S. petroleum industry clustered in along coastal Louisiana and Texas. Ironically as I was preparing this report, The Weather Channel posted a very similar map as featured below. I’m sure you know what’s going to happen if a major hurricane churns right through these platforms, and as expected, the energy industry has already launched storm preparations for next week. Likewise, the State of Louisiana has laid out a comprehensive evacuation and emergency plan. Even the oil futures market stomached a $5 swing over a 24 hour period ending Tuesday evening. Whether you are ready or not, in a week our less this storm will have affected a whole lot more than just the price of gas at your corner station. Recalling my pre-Katrina example, I filled up the gas tank the night before she made landfall, and within 48 hours regular 87 octane in Dundalk, MD had jumped 90 cents. Keep in mind that Katrina pummeled the eastern edge of the platform area, and just 3 weeks later Rita sliced right through it. Gustav's track could affect both sections at once. While I don't want to incite "weather panic", if the projected path into the Gulf becomes more likely, those on a restricted income should consider filling up before the weekend (even here in Maryland). You know full well what the energy market will do, and how it will hit your wallet when it does.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

1 comment:
(for the weekend anyway)

Bertha Visible Satellite 7-11
Today I am starting the trip south from Bar Harbor back to Baltimore, as it will take 2 days. In that span of time, Bertha will have moved very little and probably by Sunday afternoon so I can just leave this satellite image up for most of the weekend, right? For those of you heading to an ocean beach anywhere from Miami to the Gulf of Maine, be alert for swells and rip currents, as many NWS offices have posted advisories to the public on these dangers through Sunday. I very much wish to see by Bertha's departure that no one fell victim to a hurricane 1,000 miles offshore (or anywhere for that matter.) Have a safe and pleasant weekend everyone.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

No comments:

NHC Bertha 6
As of the 5:00 AM July 11 advisory, Bertha has been maintaining maximum wind speeds in the 75-85 mph range, as well as an impressive satellite presentation. According to the Ocean Prediction Center's current Wind & Wave Analysis, and ocean swells of at least 6-9 feet have propagated several hundred miles north and west of the storm. If you are departing on a Bermuda- or Caribbean bound cruise ship this weekend, be prepared for swells near 9 feet in the Western Atlantic. Bermuda's weekend marine forecast is quite rough: offshore swells from 10-15 feet "outside the reef" are expected through Sunday.

Atlantic Wind-Wave 7-9

For East Coasters..if you're just going with family and friends to a small ocean beach, be aware of the increased rip current danger through Sunday as the storm generally stalls east of the Carolinas. Swells of 4-6 feet may be common along many beaches from Florida to the Delaware Bay and 3-5 feet northward to Cape Cod. Despite the hurricane maintaining wind speeds in the center around 75 mph, I noticed the extent of cloud cover expand. Once a decrease in strength is observed, the wind field will expand considerablly, making a larger area of the ocean available for generating waves and swell.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


World War I era German mortar-howitzer

TUE 7/8 AM UPDATE: The phrase "Big Bertha" actually originates with this World War I era mortar-like howiter manufactured and used by the Germans towards the end of the conflict. As for the size and strength of our hurricane, the maximum sustained winds (shown below) are likely to have peaked, and while those may decrease, the actual size of the storm will increase over the next few days. The wind field of a weakening tropical system will expand over time, but luckily for most of us, this is projected to occur mostly east of Bermuda. Still, the potential remains this weekend for increasing ocean swells along the Eastern seaboard, and beachgoers should stay vigilant about rip currents. Despite the indications that this hurricane may veer east, of much greater impact the weekend of July 12-14 will be cruise ships traveling to and from Bermuda, or from the Northeast or Mid-Atlantic south toward the Caribbean. I'm sure many of you whom have cruised before can tell quite a story about ocean swells and how it made your holiday less than enjoyable, to put it mildly.

NHC Bertha 4

For a birds-eye perspective on what swells can do to an ocean-going vessel, sit down, put all food out of arms reach, don't eat while watching this, and click on this clip I found from Youtube. Although this is a ferry, you can just imagine what the passengers are going through.

If you are unable to view the video, just this one picture says it all about what happens when YOUR DREAM VACATION cruise you've saved up all year for encounters swells. So if you have reservations to cruise this weekend in the Western Atlantic, please don't let me scare you off..just know it might be a bit rough and BRING THE DRAMAMINE! Note: This picture is not photo-shopped.. it is the Voyager in swells of the Mediterranean.

The cruise ship Voyager negotiating swells in the Meditteranean


Bears Watching 2

As of the 5:00 PM Monday 7/7 advisory, Hurricane Bertha has strengthened to Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph. Perhaps this is as much of a surprise to you and me as it is to the forecasters, for no one truly anticipated such a rapid intensification over marginal sea surface temperatures. More details on the explanation behind this surge in strength can be found in the current NHC discussion. Although I disagree with their last sentence, for Bermuda and the entire Eastern coastline will begin experiencing ocean swells toward the end of the week. At the very least, Bermuda will have heavy surf and if Bertha stalls in the west central Atlantic as projected, several days of increased swells along the East Coast will pose a significant hazard to swimmers, sailors, boaters, fishermen and many other coastal interests. If you have plans this coming weekend that will take you anywhere into the Atlantic Ocean, I urge you to be highly cautious of rip currents especially with regard to children and non-swimmers. Just because a hurricane is stalled offshore does not mean you are safe from it's effects.

Bertha the Buzzsaw

MONDAY 7-7 AM UPDATE: Sorry, I just couldn't resist that one, (Bears Watching) for it's been 3 years since this particular headline was last used. As you probably already know, Bertha is the first hurricane of the 2008 Atlantic Tropical Cyclone season. What you may not know is exactly 12 years ago to the day...July 7, 1996, we also had a Hurricane Bertha in the Atlantic. Another interesting twist is that this storm has given a restaurant in Fell's Point Baltimore a unique if temporary notoriety. As reported by the Sun newspaper, Bertha's is offering discount hurricane drinks, the portion size of which may increase as the storm strengthens. Those who frequent Fell's Point know it is the place to eat Mussels, and now perhaps a new tradition will be born in Charm City... thanks to the tropics.

NHC Bertha 3

You'll notice a sharp decrease in the distance Bertha is projected to travel from Friday to Saturday. Influence from the subtropical (Bermuda High) is likely to play a major role in where the hurricane ends up making her final run, as well as interaction with a frontal boundary moving east from the Great Lakes in the middle and latter part of this week. I am beginning to woder if the weekend track of this storm will resemble that of Hurricane Jeanne in 2004, which meandered off the Florida coast for nearly a week before making landfall. I'm sure our instructor, Lou McNally of the Weather and Climate Class will be continuing to make this a teachable moment for my colleagues and I. As we get to apply new forecasting skills from class, I'll be updating further on what I think are Bertha's plans for the weekend.

Saturday, July 5, 2008


Atlantic Basin 7-4

SAT 7-5 AM UPDATE: The Tropical Atlantic is starting to produce noticeable activity, view the latest infrared satellite loop. As of 11AM Thursday morning, the robust tropical wave off the West African coast was upgraded to Tropical Storm Bertha, and may approach hurricane strength late in the weekend.

SYNOPSIS: Bertha is the first named tropical storm known to have developed this far East in the Atlantic. At present, upper level air flow patterns indicate that a landfall on the U.S. mainland cannot be ruled out. In the southeast Caribbean, a weak area of low pressure had been producing scattered showers and thunderstorms, but remains disorganized. However, activity continues to flare up west of the estimated center as the overall system drifts west-northwestward. A broad area of showers and thunderstorms is also present near the coastal Texas/Mexico border and will be monitored this weekend.

Bertha 3

FIRST, THE CAPE VERDE SYSTEM: View this enhanced infrared loop. Ironically the last notable tropical cyclone to form in this region at this time of the year was...Bertha, in July 1996. With a classic summertime Bermuda High ridge forecast to start building next week, one might initially think the storm could travel under the ridge and in the general direction of the Caribbean. When considering the air flow at upper levels, a different trend is revealed, and you would see why some computer models are indicating recurvature east of Bermuda. A brief explanation for this is provided in the "upper level analysis" section. Below is the current NHC projected path from 5PM 7-4, and preceding it is the 11AM Advisory.

Bertha 2

Notice the westward shift in the cone of uncertainty from one map to the next.

NHC Bertha 2

UPPER LEVEL ANALYSIS: This next map is among the many new features I've been learning about in my Weather Forecasting and Climate Change class here at the picturesque College of the Atlantic. As I experiment with a new feature or skill from the class, it will be added here for use during this year's hurricane season. The newest (to me) resource is the 500 mb 24-hour forecast for the Central and North Atlantic issued by the Ocean Prediction Center. The inference I am making from this map is that once Bertha nears the Low and High progged at the 500 mb (~18,000 foot) level, the air movement between these two centers will create convergent flow south to the south side, with air diverging on the north side. This will act to pull the system toward the vacuum created by this flow, and begin curving the storm northwest and eventually northward into the central Atlantic. The NHC refers to this as a weakness in the subtropical ridge. This is an example of the importance of knowing movement of air masses and pressure differences at upper levels, which ultimately dictate what is observed on the surface for us ground observers.

Atlantic 500MB 7-3-08

BACKGROUND: A tropical wave developing off the West African coast is referred to as a "Cape Verde" system due to the promixity of an island cluster of the same name. Were this occuring between mid August and late September, we would have great cause for concern. This early in July, waves way out there usually don't become the Katrinas, Ivans, Floyds or Glorias and come terrorizing the Gulf or East Coast. Each tropical season, one hundred or more disturbances drfit off the African coast and cross the Atlantic. In July 2005, two of these systems reorganized once near the Caribbean and developed into named storms. Dennis made landfall as a Category 3 Major Hurricane on the Florida panhandle July 10 of that year. Just eight days later, Emily has already crossed the same southern Caribbean waters, and struck the Yucatan on July 18 as a Category 4. Emily also had a second landfall south of Brownsville in Northeast Mexico as a Category 3. I realized in reviewing the archives on both storms...back on July 6, 2005 the Atlantic basin had nearly an identical setup: A tropical wave just off the African coast (which would become major Hurricane Emily), AND a small feature in the southern Caribbean which became Dennis.

SECOND: THE SOUTHERN CARIBBEAN SYSTEM. View the latest satellite loop. While the system is being sheared by upper level winds, it is also about to enter surface waters nearly 2 deg F above normal, and low level steering currents favor a west-northwest path for the next day or so. Despite the shearing, thunderstorms continue to flare up west of the center. Closer examination of the environment ahead of this wave is warranted over the weekend. Any system named in that region of the Atlantic Basin this time of year will be a cause for concern among emergency management officials, cruise operators and the especially oil market. In fact, I suspect that many astute futures traders are watching this area closely For an even more serendipituous perspective on the economics of hurricanes, consider investing in the Hurricane Futures Market, as first reported by MSNBC in 2005. As Dave Barry would say, "I am not making this up."

Invest 93L Satellite 7-2

While this system has decated, compare the earlier projected path to the NHC official tracks for Hurricane Dennis in July 2005, as recorded in this link to the archives for that period.

Invest 93L Preliminary Model Tracks

Under the training from our Weather and Climate Instructor, I've gained a new appreciation for the importance of applying real time interpretation skills to existing atmospheric data. I've spent the learning from Dr. Lou McNally, who with 30 years service across in both the private and public forecasting industry, is a super-rich source of knowledge and we are very fortunate to have him take time out of his crushing schedule to shepherd us through the nuances of weather analysis. Thanks Lou, for making this a highly informative, useful and thought-provoking class thus far! For me it is uniquely fun and beneficial, as I have been implementing the skills learned in class almost immediately, and hopefully those of you following this site will see the payoff in a better understanding of what drives the weather.

PREVIOUS UPDATE- WED 7/2 4:30 PM. From beautiful Bar Harbor in Downeast Maine, I wish you all a safe and weather-friendly Fourth of July Weekend. I shall have the day off from my Weather Forecasting and Climate Change course here at College of the Atlantic. If our class forecast for the weekend holds true, then I plan to revisit Acadia National Park via the island bus service and take my rented mountain bike with me. During lunch each day, I take a short bike into the wonderfully quaint town that is Bar Harbor (yes I will post pictures soon). On Tuesday 7/1 my classmates and I journeyed atop Cadillac Mountain for incredible views of the Maine coastline as well as cloud and front analysis. At 1,530 feet, this mountain is the highest point directly on the Atlantic coast north of Brazil, and it is quite a sight to look out into the ocean from it's summit. Thank you to the well-wishes of those whom have made Bar Harbor among their vacation spots, and I can now see why you think so fondly of this place. As I pedal through the rustic and unique downtown, I think fondly of all you as well and wish you along with my family could be here to enjoy the sights, fresh Atlantic air, and great people that comprise the wonderful region known as "Downeast Maine."